Consumer advocacy is very low in Nigeria to the extent that consumers do not appropriate their rights in most cases.
Apart from enduring substandard services, subscribers have also been groaning under the weight of excessive and unapproved charges.
The efforts of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), appear to have yielded little as there are still persistent complaints about poor customer service of all the GSM providers in the country.
Even the recent proliferation of independent consumer advocates, has served little or no use because their ranks have been broken by services providers with huge financial war chests.
They now see consumer advocacy as mere platitudes.
It is safe to say that the telecom industry typifies the lack of vocal unity of the Nigerian consumer.
This has to change. Consumer advocacy must begin to stand besides the consumer and speak out on his behalf to protect and promote his rights and interests.
As Nigerians become increasingly dependent on telecommunications services; a strong advocate is needed to represent the people when telecoms decisions are made.
Today, most Nigerians are vulnerable and open to abuses by services providers because of illiteracy, lack of language skills, or disability.
In combination with low income and lack of access to telephones, Internet or transportation, these barriers deprive many vulnerable consumers of fair treatment.
Like most countries, Nigeria has laws to protect consumers against dangerous or faulty workmanship, deceitful sales practices, and misleading advertising but in practice, they are rarely enforced.
The CPC, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are agencies responsible for protecting consumers.
But they are typical bureaucracies and lack actionable programmes that will endear consumers to them.
In this industry, the excesses of service providers are unchecked. They abuse market power and infringe on the rights and privileges of the consumers.
Consumers privacies are invaded at will. Poor services; dropped calls; charges for uncompleted calls have persisted and no answers are given.
But Nigerians must sit and watch; they must stand up for themselves.
Time is now for a stronger voice to remedy the injustices in the market place and teach consumers to stand up for themselves.
The voice must first tackle the prevalent consumer apathy and enlist the support of other stakeholders to be effective.
Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and indeed the federal government must also encourage citizen’s advocacy.
This so-called stronger voice must tell Nigerians of the resources available to help them.
Additionally, consumer protection agencies must be strengthened to provide all the advice and assistance needed by consumers.
Importantly, the federal government must ensure appropriate share of legal aid to support of vulnerable consumers facing consumer protection issues.
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